Avoiding the Existential Injustice of Unemployment Caused by Technology
Morgan, Matthew J
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Many experts predict that artificial intelligence and advanced robotics may replace a substantial number of human workers within the next couple of decades. I contend that the people who lose their jobs to technology may suffer an existential injustice. An existential injustice is defined as one that occurs when a person cannot participate in or is excluded from a fundamental aspect of society – in this case work – through no fault of their own. Current responses to the possibility of widespread unemployment include the argument that technology will enable people to take on better jobs, proposals for improved education and training to prepare workers for the modern job market, and the implementation of a universal basic income to provide for everyone’s basic needs. I argue that these responses fail to recognize the transformative potential of modern technology, perpetuate paid work as a cultural value, or both. Therefore, they will not be sufficient to prevent the existential injustice. A universal basic income is part of an appropriate solution for avoiding the existential injustice, but only if it comes with a change in the cultural importance of paid work. Culture must value nonpaid contributions so that people do not suffer the existential injustice of living in a society that values paid work but does not provide enough jobs.